On the Movies of 2014

Now that 2014 is over, here are some brief thoughts on the movies of 2014 that I remember seeing. I’ve only seen the edited airline versions of some of these (like 300: Rise of an Empire and Godzilla), but I don’t think the unedited versions would change anything.

Overall, I would say that Boyhood is the best of the bunch in terms of film-making artistry, while Guardians of the Galaxy was the most enjoyable. There are still a few movies (mostly dramas) that have come out recently that I haven’t yet seen.

Action Movies

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – Fun comic book/sci fi movie that is only tangentially related to the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe so you don’t need to watch another 10 movies to understand what’s going on.
  2. X-Men: Days of Future Past – Adaptation of what is apparently one of the most popular X-Men storylines (I’m not a big reader of comic books). Interesting concept, great cast, fixes many of the problems seen in some previous entries in the series (i.e. X-Men 3 and the first Wolverine movie). Focuses a lot more on the characters than on nonstop action
  3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Clearly this has been a banner year in comic book movies. This is another excellent example of the genre. It doubles as a political thriller and if you’ve been following the Marvel movies, introduces a number of big changes that should affect
  4. Edge of Tomorrow – Really interesting concept that is quite well done. Like a military sci-fi version of Groundhog Day
  5. Interstellar – Great visuals, most of the movie is quite good, but I (and most physicists I’ve talked to) aren’t really fans of the ending and some of the dialog toward the end is cringe-inducing
  6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Pretty good movie, but not as good as the previous one. Certainly less cheesy than the original series. It’s definitely a middle movie in the series (not really a standalone film), so the third movie could make me reevaluate my thoughts of this one
  7. Noah – Decent movie and inventive telling of the Biblical flood story. Casting is somewhat questionable with too many big names. Not Aronofsky’s best but not bad either.
  8. Godzilla – Pretty forgettable Godzilla movie. A big upgrade from the 90s one with Matthew Broderick. Surprisingly doesn’t include enough Godzilla.
  9. Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Also pretty forgettable. The plot is a bit of a mess by trying to throw too much at us at once. Not as bad as Spiderman 3, which had some similar issues
  10. 300: Rise of an Empire – Too much like the first one: Lots of stylized violence but not enough plot. This one tells a fictionalized version of the Battle of Salamis (to be fair, Herodotus’ descriptions of the Greco-Persian wars are probably also somewhat fictionalized and definitely biased). As with the original film, doesn’t allow for any real nuance in its portrayal of the Greeks as the saviors of civilization and the Xerxes’ forces as irredeemably evil.

Artsy Movies/Drama

  1. Boyhood – Great movie by Richard Linklater that shows the story of a family over a decade (and was also filmed over a decade so everyone is actually aging). Like a lot of Linklater movies, it is more a series of vignettes rather than a unified story, so not necessarily for everyone.
  2. Grand Budapest Hotel – Another solid entry in Wes Anderson’s series of stylized comedies. (Others include Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums). This and Boyhood are probably the best films for film nerds that I saw in 2014 since they are both clearly imbued with the unique styles of their directors.
  3. Gone Girl – Pretty good crime thriller. Unlike most others in the genre, it reveals the twist fairly early so that it doesn’t ruin the movie on repeated viewings and can also spend more time on plot than just people running around trying to figure out what’s going on.

Kids’ Movies

  1. Lego Movie – Excellent kids’ cartoon action movie with a lot going on for adults. There are references (Batman – who also sings in an emo band, Star Wars, lots of old and probably out of production Lego sets), a nice meta story that shows up toward the end. It can even be seen as a subversion of the Hero’s Journey trope popularized by Joseph Campbell.
  2. Big Hero 6 – Another excellent kids’ movie that is actually an adaptation of a Marvel comic but isn’t part of the broader Marvel cinematic universe as far as we know. The plot follows a pretty standard superhero origins story but is well done, and has some really good world building for future movies.